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#10 - JRL 7224
BBC Monitoring
Russian TV says Turkmen leader's decrees provoke mass exodus of Russians
Source: RTR Russia TV, Moscow, in Russian 1600 gmt 15 Jun 03

People who have dual Russian and Turkmen citizenship are forced to choose which one to keep, Russian TV has reported. The report said unilateral actions taken by Turkmen President Saparmyrat Nyyazow lead to many Russians having to flee Turkmenistan, leaving all their property behind, while others are forcibly stripped of their Russian citizenship. The following is excerpt from a report broadcast by Russia TV on 15 June.

[Presenter] A campaign to find out who has dual citizenship, namely Russian [and Turkmen], is being waged in Turkmenia [Turkmenistan]. It began after an agreement on the gradual abolition of dual citizenship was concluded. The ink on the treaty was not yet dry when the Turkmen authorities started forcing tens of thousands of people to choose immediately. A deadline has been set - 22 June. Those who decide to keep their Russian citizenship are in effect being squeezed out of the republic, deprived of elementary rights.

On Monday [9 June], the Russian Foreign Ministry issued an official statement saying Moscow did not recognize Asgabat's unilateral withdrawal from the dual citizenship agreement because international law requires that instruments of ratification should be exchanged.

Nonetheless, as our correspondent Vyacheslav Dukhin has found out, dozens of Russian citizens are fleeing from Turkmenia, seeking refuge from arbitrary rule.

[Correspondent] In terms of documents, dual citizenship meant not two passports but one. All those enjoying the status could obtain the new Turkmen ID with a green cover, which certified the person's identity on Turkmen territory. In addition, a special slip was issued, saying the person had earlier obtained Russian citizenship. Those in possession of this slip could obtain a new Russian passport. All those who had these documents were able to cross the border without visas. But all this will end on 22 June.

[Passage omitted: on a Russian family from Asgabat, who now live in Russia, and have friends and relations in Turkmenistan.]

This is [Moscow's] Domodedovo airport, Turkmen Airlines flight 703 from Asgabat. Many of the passengers are those who have decided to leave Turkmenistan because of the abolition of dual citizenship. Those who have relatives in Russia are lucky - they will at least have somewhere to stay to begin with.

[Passenger, captioned as Valentina Skripina] It was good when we had dual citizenship. People could live there or here, they could travel here. And now it is either or, and people are rushing about. There is panic in Turkmenia, I tell you. Everyone wants to leave, but not everyone can: tickets are expensive. There are virtually no railway links, and travelling by air is very expensive.

[Passage omitted: man complains about the hassle and cost of obtaining visas]

[Correspondent] Russian citizens who arrive from Turkmenia leave all their property behind. They are forced to sell their flats and other possessions dirt-cheap.

[Passage omitted: passengers confirming the above]

People are often told: you will have to leave anyway, and you'll leave everything behind, so why should we buy anything from you?

Those people with dual citizenship who stay in Turkmenia have a different future ahead of them. Under a Saparmyrat Nyyazow decree, they will be forcibly stripped of Russian citizenship and will only be regarded as Turkmen subjects - even though in legal terms this is a total absurdity.

Article 4 of the federal law on Russian citizenship says it is common and equal regardless of how it was obtained. The next paragraph says the fact that a Russian citizen lives outside the Russian Federation does not terminate his citizenship. Finally, the law clearly says that a citizen of the Russian Federation cannot be stripped of his citizenship. This, though, is Russian legislation. In addition to that, there is international law, which Russian and Turkmen authorities see differently. The abolition of an agreement on dual citizenship requires ratification, but Asgabat decided not to wait for it.

[Passage omitted: Vladimir Kotenev, director of the Consular Service Department of the Russian Foreign Ministry, explaining Russia's position - footage from 9 June]

Another problem is exit visas, without which Russian citizens will be unable to leave Turkmenia after 22 June.

[Dmitriy Rogozin, chairman of the Russian State Duma international affairs committee] The so-called exit visas simply cannot be introduced in this day and age. If you, a Russian Federation citizen, find yourself as Mr Turkmenbasy's [Nyyazow's] guest in Asgabat, you will have to ask Mr Turkmenbasy for permission to return home! In other words, a Russian citizen cannot return home unless he has Turkmenbasy's permission.

[Correspondent] Turkmenbasy's decree therefore in effect creates conditions for a mass exodus of Russian citizens from Turkmenia.

[Anatoliy Fomin, chairman of Turkmenistan's Russian community, president of the foundation for supporting resettlers from Turkmenistan] According to our calculations, some 25-30 families are leaving Asgabat every day. Add to this [people leaving the towns of] Chardzhou [Turkmenabat], Mary and so on. This is a big drain.

[Correspondent] Next week, the State Duma is to hold closed hearings on dual citizenship. So far, Moscow has been urging the Turkmen authorities to stop their illegal actions.

[Rogozin] This presumptuous individual who believes he can do whatever he pleases with our citizens has to be put in his place. This will be enough for the situation to improve at least in the first approximation.

[Correspondent] The Russian authorities are making it clear they will not let their citizens be mistreated, whatever decrees the Turkmen president issues.

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